You can make all of your favorite desserts with healthy baking ingredients and swaps. Although I’m no baker, I enjoy a sweet treat often. I have a kitchen full of go-to nutritious essentials that I use any time I want to bake a cake or make cookies. Using healthier ingredients means a healthier outcome and less guilt for eating the sweets and baked goods you enjoy.
Sweetness is why we eat desserts right? Diets high in sugar can take a toll on the body, and since I follow a mostly low glycemic lifestyle, I keep added sugar to a minimum. That being said, I can’t live without maple syrup and these other sweeteners add a delightful taste to any baked good.
- Maple Syrup or Maple Sugar. Real maple syrup is a straight-from-nature product—the sap is taken from the maple tree and boiled into a concentrate. It’s considered medium on the glycemic index and is lower than sugar cane. It’s also packed with minerals and antioxidants. The replacement of brown sugar to maple syrup is 1:1.
- Raw honey. Different from regular honey, as raw honey is not pasteurized (heated). Raw honey comes straight from the honeycomb and contains bee pollen, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Buy local if you can.
- Naturally sweet flavorings pure vanilla or almond extract. Extracts are made my combining the natural ingredient(vanilla or almond oil) with ethanol (alcohol) and water. Vanilla and almond extract both have a natural sweetness to them and are ideal when making cakes, cookies, and brownies.
Essential flours for healthy baking
Baking often begins with flour as the base. I like to keep healthy flours on hand that are rich in vitamins and minerals and can be found in most grocery stores. The flour used for certain baked goods can alter the consistency because they’re all gluten free. I recommend using Pinterest to see what great recipes are made with the flours below.
- Oat flour. My favorite flour. Oat flour is a whole grain flour made from oats. It has a smooth texture and tastes like oats. The texture is similar to wheat flour, however, it doesn’t contain gluten. You can also very easily make your own oat flour by placing oats in a blender or food processor and sifting it. Viola— oat flour.
- Chickpea flour. This flour is high in protein, as it is stone ground garbanzo beans. It is higher in fiber, minerals, and nutrients than all-purpose flour. It is also gluten free.
- Almond Flour. Gluten free, low carb, and made from ground almonds, this flour gives a nutty taste to your baking. Almond flour adds moisture to baked recipes and packs them with protein, fiber, and healthy fats. If you don’t have a nut allergy, this is the way to go.
- Coconut flour. Elevate your pancake game by swapping in coconut flour for all-purpose flour. Coconut flour contains a generous helping of healthy fats and fiber.
At this step, I don’t think it’s necessary to go dairy free. However, if you’re dairy free or going without it then these milks are a great healthy bakingalternative. While most recipes don’t call for much liquid apart from water or eggs, just adding a splash of these dairy free alternatives will add more nutrition and uniqueness to your food. Opt for non-GMO and/or organic if possible.
- Oat milk. This milk consists of steel-cut or whole groats that are soaked in water, blended, and then strained. Its rich, creamy, oaty flavor makes it my favorite dairy free milk.
- Nut milk. All nut milks are made by soaking nuts in water, blending, and then straining. Not all nut milks or dairy free milks are created equal, so make your own or watch out for additives like carrageenans which is a thickening agent.
- Pea milk. This milk is thick, creamy, and made from peas. The milk is packed with protein and doesn’t contain common allergens like gluten or nuts. Additionally, it’s said to be more environmentally friendly than almond milk —that gives it a thumbs up in my book. Also, it’s my partners absolute favorite milk for making mochas.
All good things call for fat, and these fats are a staple in my healthy baking ingredients at home. Consistency matters a lot here, so it’s good to research which fats are good/not good for certain baked goods. For the most part though, you can always use one of these healthy fat alternatives in your recipes for delicious treats.
- Nut butters and Nut oils. These are made by grinding nuts into a paste. Nut butters and nut oils are high in good fats, and contains a host of vitamins and minerals. They’re also great to add to anything you’d like to give a nutty flavor or texture to.
- Coconut oil. Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel or meat of mature coconuts harvested from the coconut palm. The beauty is that it has a high saturated fat content and it is slow to oxidize making it resistant to going rancid. If you’re using coconut oil, just note that is tastes like coconut, but has a smooth buttery texture.
- Ghee. Ghee is clarified butter usually made from cow’s milk. Because of the way it’s made, most of the dairy proteins and sugars are removed, and this makes it more tolerable for people with a lactose intolerance. It’s very nutty and buttery and it’s a great substitute for regular butter.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is the most common oil and it’s made from olives. When purchasing this oil, look for certified organic. The organic certification guarantees that you’ve got pure olive oil as many of the cheaper brands mix olive oil with vegetable oils. An easy way to test if you have the real thing is by putting the bottle of oil in the fridge—you should see it start to solidify after 24 hours.
Healthy baking ingredients: add-ins
These are some of my favorite add-ins when making desserts or various baked goods. They’re nutrient dense, delicious, and can add depth and texture to any recipe you make.
- Raw cacao powder or Raw cacao nibs
- Unsweetened peanut butter or powdered peanut butter
- Unsweetened coconut flakes
- Flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. I recommend to keep these seeds refrigerated.
As long as you keep these healthy baking ingredients in your kitchen, you’ll always be able to make any baked good into a delicious or savory treat; from artisan breads to oatmeal cookies. Feel free to experiment with different ingredients, but having these staples will go along way. Most healthy baking recipes use these basic goods, so have them on hand and bake anything at moments notice.